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The Way West


6 hours (4 episodes, 90 minutes each) on 2 DVDs
Source: PBS Video

Between 1845 and 1893, the American West was lost and won--and brought within the dominion of the United States--while along the way, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Native Americans were violently disrupted. This six-hour documentary series from acclaimed filmmaker Ric Burns chronicles the final decades of the American frontier, from the time of the Gold Rush until after the last of the Indian wars at Wounded Knee.

  1. Westward, the Course of Empire Takes its Way, 1845-1864
    The first episode of the series chronicles the colorful and frantic opening decades of expansion, from the 1840s down through the Civil War. The pioneer movement and the Gold Rush transformed the destiny of the continent and turned the world of Native Americans upside down. The ever-quickening pace of expansion led to a series of bloody confrontations between Native Americans and whites, culminating in the Minnesota Uprising of 1862, and, two years later, the massacre at Sand Creek.

  2. The Approach of Civilization, 1865-1869
    The four-year period following the Civil War, an extraordinarily transformative and disruptive era on the Great Plains, was marked by two great climaxes: the triumph in 1866 of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse over the U.S. Army on the Bozeman Trail, and the joining in 1869 of the two ends of the transcontinental railroad at Promontory Point in Utah.

  3. The War for the Black Hills, 1870-1876
    The third episode of the series follows the dramatic sequence of events that led up to the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June of 1876. Financial pressures spurred the United States to invade the Lakotas’ sacred Black Hills in search of gold. That treaty violation, together with the systematic extermination of the buffalo, sparked outrage among the Lakota and Cheyenne. The stage was set for a cataclysmic showdown between the United States Army and the tribes of the Northern Plains.

  4. Ghost Dance, 1877-1893
    The fourth and final episode of the series chronicles the oppression of the Native American tribes that occurred in the wake of the Battle of the Little Bighorn; the surrender and last days of Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull; the rise of the heartbreaking Ghost Dance religion; and the last terrible massacre at Wounded Knee.

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